Copyright Laws & Regulations and UT’s Rules of Thumb¶
Below is a high-level summary of copyright information collected from various sources on the web, including the UT Main website. The goal here is to provide the Institute’s faculty, staff, and students with some very general guidelines on how to determine what is acceptable to copy and how legally obtained copies of copyrighted material can be stored and accessed on the Institute’s computer networks. To this end, this note includes brief sections on: general information about copyrights and the Fair Use Doctrine, what are the essential components of the UT Copyright Rules of Thumb related to literary works, images, and software, and where one can go for additional UT copyright information and/or UT legal advice. Note that ignorance of the law is not a defense for copyright infringement.
Please note that the information provided below is intended only as a “quick start” guide for copyright information and one should consult the UT Policy (at the links below) when ambiguity arises - as it most surely will.
General Information about Copyrights & the Fair Use Doctrine¶
Copyrights are intended to promote the creation of new works by allowing authors to have control of and profit from their works. Copyright laws are deliberately vague, ambiguous, and often misunderstood. These laws are interpreted on a case-by-case basis. Copyrights apply to the following types of works: poems, theses, literary works, plays, movies, dances, musical compositions, paintings, drawings, photographs, software, sound recordings… A copyright protects the expression of ideas not the ideas themselves. Copyright protection is available for both published and unpublished works for a limited period of time. The US signed the Borne Convention in 1988 giving copyright to authors without requiring them to register their work(s). However copyright registration is required for an author to sue and obtain damages in federal court. There are several basic rights protected by copyright laws
- to reproduce the work
- to import or export the work
- to create derivative works
- to distribute copies
- to publicly perform the work
- to publicly display the work…
The Fair Use Doctrine allows for the limited use of copyrighted materials without the permission of the rights holder. Fair Use is not a copyright infringement. Fair Use is determined by the following four factors:
- purpose and charter of the use
- nature of the copyrighted material
- amount and substantiality of the portion used
- effect of the use upon the market potential
Most educational use of copyrighted materials falls under the Fair Use Doctrine. Note however that not every educational use is Fair Use. Non-profit and educational websites that reproduce whole articles from technical magazines are frequently found to infringe on copyrights. Both UT and individuals involved in copyright infringement may be sued for damages. Damages can be awarded in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
What is the UT Fair Use policy for Copyrighted Materials?¶
Many legal scholars, politicians, copyright owners and users, and their lawyers agree that fair use is so hard to understand that it fails to provide effective guidance for the use of others’ works today. The UT System approach to this issue has been through the development of a set of Rules of Thumb for the Fair Use of copyrighted materials.
Note, however, that copying, modifying, displaying, performing, or distributing another’s work beyond the suggestions of the Rules of Thumb may still be a fair use (more about this below). UT’s Fair Use Rules of Thumb
UT System has established “Rules of Thumb” for the following uses of copyrighted works:
- Distance learning
- Image archives
- Multimedia works
- Music Research copies
Within the context of this document we are primarily concerned with the copyright of image archives, research copies, and reserves. Rules of Thumb for Digitizing and Using Images for Educational Purposes
Is the image you wish to digitize readily available online or for sale or license at a fair price?
- If YES: Point to, purchase or license the image.
- If NO: Digitize and use the image in accordancewith the following
- Limit access to all images except small, low resolution “thumbnails” to students enrolled in the class and administrative staff as needed. Terminate access at the end of the class term.
- Faculty members also may use images at peer conferences. Students may download, transmit and print out images for personal study.
Rules of Thumb for Research Copies
Limit research copies to:
- single chapters
- single articles from a journal issue several
- charts, graphs, illustrations
- other similarly small parts of a work
Rules of Thumb for Digitizing and Using Others’ Works in Electronic Reserves
- Limit reserve materials to:
- single articles or chapters; several charts, graphs or illustrations; or other small parts of a work
- a small part of the materials required for the course
- copies of materials that a faculty member or the library already possesses legally (i.e., by purchase, license, fair use, interlibrary loan, etc.).
- Limit access to students enrolled in the class and administrative staff as
- needed. Terminate access at the end of the class term.
- Obtain permission for materials that will be used repeatedly by the same
- instructor for the same class.
The Rules of Thumb do not describe the outer limits of fair use; they describe a “safe harbor” within the bounds of fair use. So, a use that exceeds the suggestions of the Rules of Thumb may still be fair. See the discussion of Using the Four Factor Fair Use Test on UT’s Copyright Crash Course website: http://copyright.lib.utexas.edu/copypol2.html
More information concerning UT’s policy on copyrights and Fair Use can be found at the web locations below:
These two sites also contain a number of other good sources if the Rules of Thumb are not sufficient to cover your needed use of copyrighted materials.